PhD Position in Modelling and Control for Vertical Farm Climate Optimization

Wageningen University

PhD Position Modelling and Control for Vertical Farm Climate Optimization

Location Wageningen

We are looking for

Are you that enthusiastic researcher that likes to work on modelling and control, and apply it to improve processes in agriculture and food production?

This PhD is part of the SkyHigh project ( ). Together with a consortium of an inter-disciplinary team of researchers and industrialists, we started a challenging research project with the aim to optimize the crop production process in a so called vertical farm.

The aim of this PhD project is to design an optimally performing vertical farm, in a modelling and control study. Within the project, you will work  in a multi-disciplinary team consisting of fellow PhDs with various backgrounds such as plant sciences, modelling, and artificial intelligence.

The research challenges

Vertical farming is a novel technology where plants are grown in many stacked layers with LED light. It is a secure and sustainable route to provide cities with fresh food. The overall challenge is to grow crops with high yield, high quality (long shelf life, high nutrition, and good taste and consequently a product with a higher price), in an energy efficient way (low energy use, low energy costs), against low investment costs. These objectives are partly conflicting; for example, high yield requires high light input while avoiding extreme humidity, which increases energy use. A balance has to be sought to weigh the importance of the individual objectives, and the way they are affected by changing settings in lighting, temperature, CO2 concentration, and air humidity. Furthermore, the importance given to each of the objectives, varies per grower. The scientific challenge is to create an algorithm that adjusts the climate settings in such a way that costs, energy use, yield, and quality are well balanced according to the grower’s preferences. This requires an integrated model that relates the effects of climate settings on yield, quality, energy, and costs. Furthermore, optimization requires an algorithm that is flexible depending on how individual growing companies weigh the importance of energy, yield, quality, and costs.

In this project, you will optimize the performance of a vertical farm with respect to crop growth, crop quality, and energy use, by controlling indoor climate variables such as temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and lighting. Two main steps can be distinguished:

  1. Modelling the dynamic interactions between climate variables and crop response to changing those variables, as well as the relation between climate control and energy use.
  2. Designing ways to optimize climate settings for optimal crop production, that is, high yield,  with low energy costs and high crop quality.
Within our research consortium there is already a vast amount of knowledge on crop growth, crop quality, climate dynamics, and energy use, and this will be expanded throughout the project. Also a number of companies is present to represent the state of the art, as well as the challenges, in industry. This provides a unique opportunity for developing a state of the art design that is tailored to industrial needs, and embedded in a solid scientific background.

We ask

  • you are a motivated researcher holding a MSc in the area of systems and control, modelling and optimization, or related field;
  • you have a keen interest in optimization and control, with real-world applications;
  • you have knowledge of crops and their physiology, or are willing to obtain this knowledge;
  • you enjoy the interaction, communication and collaboration with other researchers in an inter-disciplinary team;
  • you are an independent researcher that can take control over his/her project;
  • you have good oral and written communication skills;
  • we encourage female researchers to apply
  • this position requires an excellent English language proficiency  (a mininum of CEFR C1 level). For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page.

We offer

The job is for a period of 4 years (1 year, and after a positive evaluation extension for another 3 years) at an international leading organization. Gross salary per month € 2.395,- in the first year rising to € 3.061,-  per month in the fourth year, for a fulltime appointment.

In addition, we offer:

  • 8% holiday allowance;
  • a structural year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions;
  • flexible working hours and holidays can possibly be determined in consultation so that an optimal balance between work and private life is possible;
  • excellent pension plan through ABP;
  • 232 vacation hours, the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes;
  • a flexible working time;
  • a choice model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan;
  • a lively workplace where you can easily make contacts and where many activities take place on the Wageningen Campus. A place where education, research and business are represented;
  • use the sports facilities on campus.
Wageningen University & Research stimulates internal career opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are ample opportunities for own initiative in a learning environment.
We offer a versatile job in an international environment with varied activities in a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

The team
You will be employed at the Farm Technology (FTE) group at Wageningen University and Research. FTE has a long history in developing optimization and control for protected cultivation. You will be supervised and guided by an experienced team of researchers in the area of vertical farm modelling , plant-growth modelling, and climate control..

More information

For more information about this function, please contact Assistant professor S (Simon) van Mourik

For more information about the procedure, please contact

You can apply up to and including August 10, 2020

For this position you can only apply online:
Please do not upload more than 6 pages in total. Applications exceeding this limit will be considered ineligible.

Equal opportunities employer

We are an employer that offers equal opportunities. We are happy to receive applications from all suitably qualified people regardless of race, gender, functional impairment, religion / belief, sexual orientation or age.
We believe that a diverse and inclusive working environment makes us a more relevant, competitive and resilient organization. Click here for more information about working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Within Wageningen University & Research, nine specialised research institutes from the Wageningen Research Foundation and Wageningen University have joined forces to help answer the most important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With approximately 30 locations, 6,500 employees, and 12,000 students, it is one of the leading organisations in its domain worldwide. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of the unique approach of Wageningen. We have been named Best Employer in Education category 2019-2020.

For further information about working at Wageningen University & Research, take a look at the special career site.

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